British Columbia

Vancouver Aquarium 'deeply disappointed' with park board vote to ban cetaceans

The Vancouver Aquarium say it "disagrees" and is "deeply disappointed" with the Vancouver Park Board decision to ban the display of live cetaceans at the aquarium.

Park board votes unanimously in favour of banning whales, dolphins and porpoises at the aquarium

Aurora the beluga whale, shown here in 2009, died unexpectedly last year. The Vancouver Park Board has voted unanimously to ban the display of whales, dolphins and porpoises. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The Vancouver Aquarium say it "disagrees" and is "deeply disappointed" with the Vancouver Park Board decision to ban the display of live cetaceans at the aquarium.

Park board commissioners voted unanimously last night in favour of a motion to amend bylaws "to prohibit the importation and display" of porpoises, whales or dolphins at the facility.

In a statement, aquarium CEO and president Dr. John Nightingale wrote, "a ban on displaying all cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium will have a deep impact on the research we do and devastate our marine mammal rescue centre." 

'Historic' decision

The park board categorized the vote as "one of the biggest decisions the park board has made," and called it "historic."

On Friday, park board's general manager Malcolm Bromley said the board will consider removing the three cetaceans still living at the aquarium: a false killer whale, Pacific white-sided dolphin and a harbour porpoise. 

Opponents of the Vancouver Aquariums cetacean program at a Vancouver Park Board meeting in Jan., 2017. (Dillion Hodgin/CBC)

So many people signed up to to speak on the controversial subject that the park board meeting, which started Wednesday, had to be extended to Thursday night. 

Whales in captivity at the aquarium has long been a contentious issue in the city, but the deaths of two beluga whales last fall brought the debate to a tipping point.

Aurora, a 20-year-old Beluga whale, swims with her calf at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, B.C., in 2009. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Aurora and Qila — mother and calf — died within nine days of each other in November, leaving the aquarium with no resident belugas. The cause of their deaths hasn't been determined, but aquarium officials said a toxin could be to blame.

In February, the aquarium announced plans to bring belugas back but because the park board holds the lease on the Stanley Park facility it has the ultimate say.